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BioInnovate is a new multidisciplinary competitive funding mechanism for biosciences and product orientated innovation activities in Eastern Africa. BioInnovate will run a Competitive Grants Scheme (CGS) targeted at research in four thematic areas chosen to support the AU/NEPAD agenda for science, technology and agriculture:

  •  Climate change adaptability, productivity and improvement for food and nutrition security
  •  Waste treatment, bio-energy for renewable bio-resources, and securing freshwater resources
  •  Innovation incubation and promotion of targeted value chains
  •  Bio-resource innovation policy and sustainability analysis BioInnovate will follow an innovation systems approach.

A key lesson from the preceding BIO-EARN Program and other R4D activities is that developmental activities need to be devised and implemented within innovation systems. An innovation system refers to a set of distinct institutions which jointly and individually contribute to the development and diffusion of new technologies which provide the framework within which governments form and implement policies to influence the innovation process. Hence, the adoption of an innovation systems approach is critical for the transition to a knowledge-based economy. Thus, following calls for proposals, we expect that the research will be implemented through ‘consortia’ comprising several individual but related projects focused on climatic adaptation strategies in crop agriculture and the environment, technology incubation, and policy advice and advocacy. This will allow the program to address and focus on regional priorities in a flexible manner. It will also allow the program to benefit from the experiences of a wider network of partners. Proposals for grants will be assessed on the basis of excellence and the ability of the grantees to deliver results. BioInnovate builds on the ten year BIO-EARN Program (East African Regional Programme and Research Network for Biotechnology, Biosafety and Biotechnology Policy Development) under which Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda greatly benefited from the capacity building and research for development (R4D) undertaken by the BIO-EARN. After more than a decade of successful implementation, BIO-EARN is now coming to completion and it is succeeded by the BioInnovate program – which also embraces Burundi and Rwanda as partner countries. Implementation of the program has already started. The recruitment for a Program Manager is in progress. The constitution of a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) is also ongoing. We expect to announce the first call for concept notes in May 2010, after the appointment of the TAC. BioInnovate will work closely with the African Union New Partnership for Africa’s Development (AU/NEPAD) Planning and Coordinating Agency (NPCA) in strengthening regional collaboration in science and technology to enable the continent to adapt the rapid advances and promises of modern biosciences. The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) has agreed to manage the new program, at the invitation of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). It will be co-located on ILRI’s Nairobi campus with the Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA) Hub, also managed by ILRI. At ILRI, BioInnovate comes under the overall responsibility of Dr Bruce Scott, Director of Partnerships and Communications, as we see the program as an important platform to foster partnerships in biosciences and innovation systems throughout the East Africa region. To accelerate the early implementation of the program, Dr Gabrielle Persley, Senior Advisor at ILRI, has agreed to be the interim Program Manager, pending the early appointment of the Program Manager. Ms Benita Forsman is assisting ILRI with the administrative, management and communication aspects of the program.

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